Top 20% of all time (see others with this rank)

Festival Year

2001 (click here to see all competition films from this year)


Dramatic Competition


Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano, Mark Boone Junior, Stephen Tobolowsky, Harriet Sansom Harris

Non-Cast Credits

Christopher Nolan, Aaron Ryder, William Tyrer, Chris J. Ball, Susanne Todd, Jennifer Todd, Elaine Dysinger, Johnathan Nolan, Wally Pfister


Memento is a complex puzzle in which the outcome is known and the enjoyment comes from piecing together the steps leading up to it.

Guy Pearce (Ravenous) unleashes a riveting performance as Leonard Shelby, a man driven by the relentless desire to revenge his wife’s brutal murder while a rare, untreatable form of memory loss hinders his path. Although he can recall details of his life before the “accident,” he can’t remember what happened 15 minutes ago, where he is, where he’s going, or why. Using this motif, writer/director Christopher Nolan develops an elaborate and masterful nonlinear unspooling of clues that challenge the viewers’ expectations. The audience knows only what Leonard can piece together from various photographs, charts, notes, and tattoos, which serve as his memory. Every detail may help discover an answer, but if misinterpreted will only compound the problem. The pleasure of the process is heightened by the intricacy of the characters’ personalities and motives. The justice of shelby’s actions remains a fascinating question up to the very last frame.

Pearce brings a mannered intensity to Shelby that emanates the frustration of a man who is constantly rediscovering and losing pieces of himself. Equally impressive performances are turned in from Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano as the two constants in Leonard’s life who only add to the confusion with their equivocal actions.

With Memento Nolan has succeeded in created a disturbing and fascinating exploration of identity, memory, actions, and the connections between them when one component is taken away.


Trevor Groth (see other films reviewed by the same reviewer)

Film Takes Pace.